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Posts Tagged ‘Pet’

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN EAST & WEST

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 18, 2009

I’ve been to Japan several times over the years on business and have had the privilege of seeing Japanese work habits first hand, which are noticeably different than in the United States. As a small example, the first time I visited, I noticed that in addition to having Coke and Pepsi machines on a street corner, there were also beer and whiskey machines. I discovered the Japanese were not worried about the youth getting alcohol from the machines as it would cause their families to “lose face” through embarrassment. If we had such machines in this country, they would probably be emptied by our youth faster than the vendors could stock them.

Aside from this though, there are a few other differences I observed in corporate Japan:

1. Japanese do not like to say “No” to someone as they do not want to offend the person. Instead, they tend to say, “Maybe Yes,” which, when translated, means “No.” If they nod their heads in the affirmative, it only means they understand what you are saying but they don’t necessarily agree with you. Because of this, it is not uncommon for American businessmen to fool themselves into believing they are being successful when they make a presentation in Japan. In reality, the Japanese understood the presentation but need time to digest and discuss it amongst themselves. If an American asks them something like, “Was I correct in this regards?” If they answer, “Maybe Yes,” the American is in trouble.

2. I’ve been in a few large offices in Japan where I have seen young employees suddenly jump up on their desks and give a five minute speech on why he is proud of his company and what a pleasure it is to work with his coworkers. When finished, the rest of the office politely applauds before returning to their work.

3. It is not proper for an employee to be insolent and openly criticize his superior. Knowing this may lead to pent up frustrations, some companies have small closet-sized rooms where the disgruntled employee can go into, close the door, and quietly beat an effigy of the boss with a bamboo stick. It may sound kind of silly, then again, you don’t hear of anyone going “postal” in Japan either.

4. It is still important for the Japanese to reach a consensus on any significant decision. This process may take some time to perform, but they want to emphasize team building and inclusion of employees in the decision making process.

5. When you join a major company in Japan it is common to first “pay your dues,” whereby you and your “class” (those who joined at the same time) are put on the same employment level and work for ten years, after which it is determined who the hard workers are and reward them with a major job promotion. If you didn’t work hard, the company won’t necessarily fire you, but your advancement in the company is arrested. Nonetheless, the emphasis here is on teamwork and creating a spirit of cooperation.

In the United States though, things are a little different…

1. Americans are not afraid of offending anyone. So much so, that “Hell No!” (or stronger) is a natural part of our vernacular. Unlike the Japanese who digest something before speaking, Americans do not hesitate to tell you whether they agree with you or not.

2. Rarely do you find an American employee who is steadfastly loyal to his company. Instead, it is more likely he will start an anonymous blog to bitch about his company and slander the character of the boss and his coworkers.

3. Americans tend to vent their frustrations more publicly than the Japanese. For example, you might get attacked in the company parking lot, or someone may pull a gun out and start shooting.

4. Instead of group decision making, Americans prefer rugged individualism whereby decisions tend to be made unilaterally as opposed to seeking the counsel of others. Consequently, employees tend to undermine any decision which is jammed down their throats.

5. When you join a major company in the United States, you are rewarded more for individual acts as opposed to team playing. This results in a never ending game of scratching and clawing your way up the corporate hierarchy. Obviously, this approach promotes interoffice politics and cutthroat tactics as opposed to a spirit of cooperation.

Why the substantial differences? Primarily because Japan is a homogeneous culture, and the American “melting pot” is heterogeneous which includes people of all races, faiths, and beliefs.

Although the differences between east and west are noticeable, things are slowly changing in Japan, whose youth have grown up with the Internet and are starting to emulate the work habits of their counterparts in the west. In other words, instead of observing courtesy, honor and respect, Japan is slowly becoming Westernized and I fear that some time in the not too distant future “Maybe Yes” will mean nothing more than that.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SHRINES OF EGO

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 15, 2009

Is bigger really better? Let me give you a scenario: a small church is started whereby the congregation and clergy tend to their faith and enjoy spiritual harmony. Inevitably, someone suggests constructing a bigger building to encourage membership. A mortgage is secured from a bank, construction begins, and indeed membership starts to grow. So much so, new facilities are added and modifications are made to the building until it becomes a landmark of the community. This, of course, forces the church to become more financially motivated to sustain their operations and recruiting campaigns are initiated to bring in more members. Suddenly, members begin to realize they are more consumed with the business of the church as opposed to practicing their faith, and membership begins to decline.

Feeling the effects of a financial squeeze, the church asks for more offerings from the congregation, which helps for a while, but membership continues to decline. Inevitably, the church can no longer sustain their operation and are forced to sell the property and move into more humble facilities.

Sound familiar? This scenario is played out every day not only in a multitude of churches and temples, but in fraternal organizations, nonprofit groups, and in small companies. The yearn to grow beyond their means is simply irresistible to some people. The problem is people tend to lose sight of their product, which, in the church’s case, is the spiritual well-being of the congregation. Any time you forget your mission, your product, you are inviting disaster.

So, is bigger truly better? Not necessarily. What we are seeing is a form of the Peter Principle whereby we grow our organizations beyond our level of competency to control. Personally, I tend to believe we build these huge edifices more for ego than for practicality. This puts us in a position of financially chasing our tail and losing sight of our original purpose. Next time someone suggests building something on a grand scale, instead of just asking, “What will it cost us?”, how about “Who is it going to really serve?”

Understand this, a week doesn’t go by where an ornate Masonic lodge isn’t put up for sale or demolished. If you find your leaders are more consumed about finances as opposed to the organization’s mission, the end is near.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HONEST DEBATE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 11, 2009

Like any other red-blooded American male on a Sunday afternoon, I like to exercise my right to surf the television channels using my remote control from the comfort of my easy chair. Years ago, when there was only four channels on TV, such a device wasn’t really needed, but now with the hundreds of available channels, it would be unimaginable to live without one. Nonetheless, I was flipping through the channels and started to notice something…

CLICK – a show describing the men and women serving in our military. The show highlights their spirit of teamwork and sacrifice for the betterment of all.

CLICK – a documentary describing the proliferation of street gangs and how people become territorial and find ways to beat the system for personal greed and vice.

CLICK – a Wall Street report on the virtues of the free enterprise system and how the entrepreneurial spirit of small companies promote job growth.

CLICK – a show describing the plight of the homeless and why it is necessary to redistribute the wealth in this country.

CLICK – a report on the Tea Party and 9.12 movements.

CLICK – a community talk show featuring a college professor discussing why conservative values are no longer valid in the world today.

CLICK – a variety of shows providing a forum to worship God.

CLICK – a program discussing the point of view of atheists and agnostics who want to have “In God we Trust” removed from American currency.

It struck me there were extreme opposites for just about everything in our society. The incompatibility between extremes is such, you start to wonder how this country survived for over 200 years. Then again, I guess it is not surprising as America’s melting pot represents a heterogeneous society, most definitely not homogeneous. This is nothing new and has been with us a long time. Also, think how boring our society would be if we all thought the same.

The only difference is we no longer practice tolerance and have forgotten how to engage in honest debate. For example, on the Internet, rarely is there any respect for other opinions and beliefs. Instead, people are inclined to viciously attack others and slander their character, a sort of “attack mode” of operating. I guess this is the price we must pay for becoming a technology based society.

French writer Voltaire is credited with saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I don’t think people feel this way anymore. Instead of talking through a problem or issue, as all of the great civilizations have done before us, we have to suffer through spin and attack. Plain and simply, we no longer know how to practice the art of honest discourse, which I interpret as a sign of deterioration of our culture.

We may not always agree with each other, but we must find ways to work together, not apart. This requires tolerance, respect, and the need to be a heck of a lot more articulate than just saying, “Up yours!”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SYSTEM MISCONCEPTIONS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 8, 2009

I’ve been writing about Information Systems for over three decades, mostly to I.S. professionals, and I’ve spent in inordinate amount of time trying to clarify our terminology and concepts, as well as dispel basic misconceptions about systems. For example, there are those who believe an Information System is a computer. Sorry but, No, that is a piece of equipment, a tool used within a system. Then there are those who think it is a computer program or collection of programs like what you find on an iPhone. As an aside, the word “app” (for “application”) is indicative of the sloppy thinking in the industry; an “application” of what? No, let’s call a spade, a spade; they’re not “apps,” they’re “programs,” but I digress.

Perhaps the biggest misconception regarding Information Systems is that you cannot have one without a computer. Sorry, but this is simply not so. The day a company goes into business, large or small, is the day when its Information Systems are born. For example, companies need to routinely manage their finances, pay employees, manufacture products, process customer orders, manage assets and inventory, schedule deliveries, etc. This has been going on well before the advent of the computer. The only difference is systems were implemented by manual processes as opposed to computer automation.

Perhaps the best way to think of an Information System is as an orderly arrangement or grouping of processes dedicated to producing information to support the actions and decisions of a business. Hundreds of years ago, systems were implemented using logs, journals, ledgers, spreadsheets, and filing cabinets. Over time, equipment was introduced in the form of such things as cash registers, typewriters, adding machines, and tabulating equipment, all of which eventually gave way to the computer. Incidentally, there are many manual processes still in our companies serving critical business functions, much more than you might think, most of which are not properly documented.

When I teach a basic class in this subject, I ask the students to design a totally manual system just to overcome the handicap of only thinking in terms of computers. For those imbued in programming, this exercise represents an epiphany and teaches them to think outside the box. Suddenly they realize writing a program is only a small part of a much larger puzzle.

The reason people have trouble understanding the difference between systems and programs is actually quite simple; a program is much more tangible than a system. You can touch and feel a program, particularly its screens, reports and source code; but a system is much less tangible as you are talking about several business processes that operate routinely, and are implemented by people and technology that will come and go over time.

This brings up an interesting point, the basic business processes of a system (aka “sub-systems”) are logical in nature and only change when information requirements change. They are implemented by manual procedures and computer programs that are physical in nature and change dynamically as technology changes, but the business process remains essentially the same. Consider this, for any company who has been implementing payroll for a number of years; Has the process of paying your employees really changed or was it the method of its implementation? If, years ago, you paid your employees on a weekly or monthly basis, you are probably still doing so. The only thing that has changed is physically how you have been doing it. Whereas you may have started out preparing payroll manually years ago, this was probably replaced by a commercial package to do the same thing, which has probably been updated or replaced several times; but your employees are still paid weekly or monthly aren’t they?

Next time someone promises you a womb to the tomb Information System on a computer, remind them that the first on-line, real-time, interactive, data base system was double-entry bookkeeping which was developed by the merchants of Venice in 1200 A.D. …. and there wasn’t a computer within miles of it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see: http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management, Software, Systems | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

LIMITATIONS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 4, 2009

One of my favorite lines from Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movies was, “Man’s got to know his limitations.” This implies a person can get in trouble if he tries to go beyond his scope of expertise. For example, I have a good idea of how to structure and organize things in business, but I’m a lousy electrician and plumber, which is why I tend to leave such tasks to others as I can only do a mediocre job of them at best. Maybe it’s a left-brain, right-brain kind of thing, but I think it’s important we understand our strengths and weaknesses and live our lives accordingly.

It disturbs me though when I see someone who obviously does not grasp his limitations and tries to be something he is not, and you see a lot of this in all walks of life, both personally and professionally. For example, we’ve all seen people who have risen above their level of competency at work and end up screwing things up not only for themselves, but for others around him as well. There is nothing wrong with aspiring to rise above our station in life, but we have to be smart enough to know our limitations.

Some people refuse to acknowledge this and, instead, create a facade about them to act as a smoke screen to blur the truth about themselves. As a small example, men who lose hair will wear wigs or get hair transplants in order to look younger and more virile, not just to attract the opposite sex but to project a certain image at work. Hair coloring, breast augmentation, face lifts, and other cosmetic surgery is done more for facade than anything else, they certainly do not make you smarter or enrich your business skills. You are what you are, and sooner or later people will wise up to you. Facade only delays the inevitable discovery, which might just be enough time to accomplish your objective and move along to the next one. Nonetheless, people who rely on facade possess a deep-seated embarrassment about themselves and probably suffer from an inferiority complex.

Age alone doesn’t imbue us with any supplemental skills either, only education, training or experience does. Seniority is meaningless if the person has not enhanced their skill set. Yet, we often see people promoted at work simply because of age, not expertise. Age does not necessarily mean entitlement.

I may be far from perfect but I believe I know what my strengths and weaknesses are and have no problem walking around in my skin. It is beyond me how people not in touch with their limitations do it. Then again, maybe they know their limitations too well and draw upon facade to mask them. Somehow, Lincoln’s observation comes to mind, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

In other words, I know a lot of people who could use a dose of humility.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENTS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 1, 2009

Years ago, companies used to have what was called “Personnel” departments that basically took care of employee records, dealt with labor relations, and promoted jobs internally within a company. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was necessary nonetheless. This function evolved and blossomed over the years to what is now referred to as the Human Resources Department. It went from basic record keeping to recruiting, training, benefits, career development, and much more. Yet, time and again, I hear from friends and contacts in corporate America who speak with disdain when the term “H.R.” is brought up. When asked why, they describe it as a huge and lethargic bureaucracy which is more of an impediment than an expediter for conducting business.

One area that is frequently criticized is recruiting which I have heard characterized as a “black box” whereby both candidates and department managers wait weeks or months for H.R. to make the necessary arrangements, and process paperwork. Candidates are frustrated and feel like they are left in limbo. Consequently, they start to look for work elsewhere and the company loses potentially good employees. Department managers are likewise frustrated as they are anxious to tackle pressing projects and assignments. Some have become so frustrated, they hire consultants as opposed to going through the arduous H.R. process of hiring employees. They simply want to get the job done and don’t have time for bureaucracy.

Understand this, H.R. would not be the behemoth it is today if we didn’t live in a litigious society where everything seems to end up in court. It is no small wonder they are often referred to as the “PC Watchdogs” (“Politically Correct”) as their mission, in part, is to keep the company out of court. From this perspective, perhaps the best way to think of H.R. is as a necessary evil.

The intent of H.R. is to bring standard and consistent practices in the use of Human Resources, which is good. However, if H.R. is perceived as a roadblock to progress, you have to wonder about its usefulness and question how it is organized. For example, should it be a centralized or decentralized function? Ideally, the H.R. department must remember it serves the rest of the company, not the other way around.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Management, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

STUFFING

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, probably because it has less to do with the marketing madness of Christmas, and more to do with family. Turkey Day has always been a big event in our household. We would get the kids up early to watch the parade on television, prepare the meal, feast, then close our eyes while watching football. In the last few years, we’ve started to invite friends over to the house at noon, which we call “halftime” before the big meals start, at which time we serve up Bloody Marys and cook up deep-fried turkeys for anyone interested (a southern specialty).

As a kid, I loved the white meat of the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and turned my nose up at just about everything else, such as cranberries, string-bean casseroles, pearl onions, beets, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, even stuffing. Now, of course, I’m a sucker for these delicacies, but to me, I’ve found the real trademark of the Thanksgiving dinner is not the bird but the stuffing instead, something that is unique to each family. In fact, unless it comes from a box, I believe no two families fix stuffing exactly the same, there is always some nuance that differentiates it from family to family.

Some people prefer a corn bread type of stuffing, others like stale day-old white bread or sourdough, some like to add oysters or perhaps sausage, ground beef, even venison. There is also wild rice, apples, raisins, cranberries, etc. I understand there is also an excellent recipe involving White Castle hamburgers I would like to try some day. The list is practically endless and is only limited by your imagination.

Despite the many combinations available to us, when it comes to stuffing, we suddenly become pretty picky about what we eat and loyal to the peculiarities of family recipes. Even the slightest suggestion of changing the stuffing recipe is strongly rebuffed by family members. You would think you were preaching heresy. If you really want to try a different stuffing, you have to either go over to a friend’s house, or cook a turkey some other time and away from prying eyes. The only other food item I can think of that commands such loyalty and devotion is the family’s Chili recipe, but that will be the subject of another article.

Yes, we should be giving thanks during Thanksgiving. Thanks for having the family and friends together, and for a bounty of food to share and enjoy. Thanksgiving is definitely a personal thing which is why it is endearing to me.

But I still hate those damn cranberries.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Family, Food | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

COMPUTER PRINTERS

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 23, 2009

In my 30+ years in the systems industry, I have seen a lot of computer printers; everything from high speed line printers that print 132 characters per line to the early laser printers and plotters, to today’s consumer dot-matrix printers. I even have some of the original print wheels from the first high speed printer for the UNIVAC I. They’re over 50 years old and I’m sure they’re worth something, but I digress.

What bugs me though are today’s consumer printers which can be unusually inexpensive, so much so, the ink cartridges for them are almost as expensive as the whole printer, which turns the printers into disposable commodities. It’s no small wonder that our garbage dumps are filling up with printers as people change printers more frequently than years ago. This implies the real money is not in the printers themselves, but in the ink cartridges which bears a hefty price tag for replacements, be it new or recycled, which, to me, seems odd as ink should be relatively cheap. Then again, I suspect the manufacturers of such products probably have a better grasp of marketing than I do. As a consumer though, I object to paying $25 – $35 for a lousy little black ink cartridge which lasts no more than a month, and much more for color.

I generally don’t have much of a problem installing printers, then again, I have a bit more experience than most people. To the novice consumer though, installing a printer can be a very traumatic experience, primarily because the software is designed by programmer geeks who haven’t got a clue what “user friendly” means. Some of the common mistakes I’ve seen include:

  • Installing a cartridge without first removing the tiny plastic strip under it.
  • Trying to insert the cartridge backwards or upside-down.
  • Inserting the black cartridge into the color cartridge position, and vice versa.
  • Plugging the printer cables into the wrong sockets.
  • For Wi-Fi printers, trying to get them to communicate with your network. Better yet, if something crashes, reestablishing the connection can be a painful experience, even for me.
  • My personal favorite though is fighting with the printer to get the cartridges to reveal themselves in order to change them. You know, watching the cartridges as they zip from side-to-side in the printer thereby keeping them out of the person’s reach, kind of like a game of Tag.

Then there are the printers that talk to you, such as “Printing started” and “Printing complete.” Then it begins to get insolent with you when something goes awry, “Please fill paper in the auto sheet feeder” or “Your ink is low, time to replace the cartridge.” These statements are all based on small sound bites that are assembled and broadcast as required. Interestingly, one of my computers suffered a crash which distorted the sequence of the sound bites. Now I get things like, “Problem started” and “Please fill your ink in the auto sheet feeder and replace the cartridge with paper.” Frankly, if I’m going to be insulted in this manner, they could at least do it with a sexy voice.

The geeks may think this is funny. The rest of us do not.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HOW ARE YOU (REALLY)?

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 20, 2009

“How are you?” is a greeting we’ve been using for a long time and has spawned several mutations, such as the famous, “How ya doin?” The response is usually something like, “Fine, thank you.” Over the years though, we’ve changed our response to indicate elation, such as “Great!”, “Fabulous!”, “Super!”, “Wonderful!”, etc., or to denote depression, such as “Lousy,” “Horrible,” or “I could kill someone!”

You can learn a lot about someone simply by how they answer the question and govern yourself accordingly. I used to hear a lot of people say things were “Terrific” or other such positive exclamations, but I haven’t heard it in awhile. Instead, I tend to hear more negative responses which I interpret as a sign of the times.

I used to know a guy who thought everything was “Super!” and appeared to be very upbeat. Time and again, you can count on him saying everything was “Super!” He was quite a salesman. He moved out of our area years ago and I understand he did quite well for himself in land development. Then the recession came along which clobbered his company into bankruptcy. This snowballed into losing his house, his family, everything. Last I heard, he was sitting in jail somewhere. All his bravado had come crashing down on him. He may have been a positive type of guy, but he didn’t know how to manage his business and overextended himself.

Shortly after learning of this story, I bumped into another friend and when I asked how she was, she looked directly at me and replied, “I’m okay.” Simple, yet sincere. I smiled as I knew it was more of an honest appraisal of her condition than the other guy who said everything was unquestioningly “Super!”

Some people might think the response, “Okay,” as a mediocre answer, if not rather negative. I tend to see it more as a sign of candor and honesty. I would much rather hear a person say they are “Okay” rather than “Super!” any day of the week. As a matter of fact, anyone saying they’re “Great” I tend to treat suspiciously these days. To me, “Okay” is positive, everything else is negative.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to respond to, “Wha’zup?”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

FORM & SCREEN DESIGN

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 17, 2009

I’ve been working with a new web site that offers some pretty powerful features for multimedia, I don’t want to say which one. Fortunately, I have been around the Information Technology industry for a long time now and can find my way through just about anything. Although this particular web site offers some pretty sophisticated capabilities, it is painful to navigate around and has pitiful Help facilities. Basically, it’s as intuitive to use as a dead slug. Although I have found my way around the software, mostly through trial and error, I wonder how many people simply gave up due to the frustration factor involved. I suspect a lot.

You see this same phenomenon in nonprofit organizations that rely on paper forms which are confusing to read with no effective way of cross-checking the data being recorded. Consequently, erroneous data is entered which permeates and corrupts the rest of the system, thereby causing considerable expense to correct errors and eliminate redundancies.

Both forms and screens serve the same purpose, as an input device to collect data. The only difference between the two is the media used. Aside from this, both should be designed according to some basic principles:

1. They need to be “clean” and inviting to use. Consideration should be given to the types of people intended to use the form or screen and their intellectual capacity to work with it. If it is perceived as difficult to use, it will be rebuffed, and people will avoid using them, thereby defeating not only the form or screen, but the entire system as well.

2. There must be a means to validate or cross-check the data collected. For screens, there should be no reason why certain editing checks cannot be added to obtain the results desired, such as checking basic math, upshifting/downshifting certain text characters, and enforcing the use of valid entries such as state mailing codes; e.g., FL, OH, NY, CA, etc. (thereby prohibiting invalid entries). On-line help should, of course, be provided, not just for the screen, but for each entry. For paper forms, preparation instructions should be included (such as on the back of the form), sample entries should be provided, and a simple means should be provided to check math, such as tabulating columns and rows in a table.

3. They should be designed according to standards thereby making it easy to learn and use which, in turn, means improved user acceptance (since they are already familiar with similar screens and forms) thereby promoting system success. Besides, why should designers reinvent the wheel with each development project? Standards for form and screen design are certainly not new. Such standards have been available for a long time, but is anyone using them? If the web pages found on the Internet represent any indication, the answer is “No.”

Forms and screens are usually designed by people who, despite their good intentions, fail due to their obsession with the technical implementation as opposed to concentrating on the human dynamics involved. I’ve seen some beautiful web pages that are graphically alluring but fail miserably simple due to horrible navigation, cryptic commands, microscopic lettering, and poor editing checks. They may look beautiful, but they fail due to the elements mentioned earlier.

Just remember, forms and screens are the portals to our systems. Systems begin with people and end with people; systems are for people.

For more information, see my paper on “Effective Screen Design.”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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